The Age of Big Business


HandShake_Business_EditedNot long ago a friend asked me how I prevent myself banging my head on the walls. He was explaining to  me how frustrated he was with the progress of change, with how access, Deaf organisations and committees seem to too slowly evolve or improve. I pointed out to him that change in Australia had indeed happened. Not at the same pace as the rest of the world but it had happened; and quite rapidly at that. For example not long ago we were able to watch only a few television shows with captions. Nearly all of these were Australian soap or artsy British shows. What is the figure now? I think it’s around 80%.

 Just over 20 years ago the University of South Australia would not pay for interpreters for my course. They relied on buddy systems to support students with a disability. Indeed on the second day of my social work training I had to get up in front of the class and declare that I was deaf, that I needed help with notes and ask for volunteers. I had to do this because the disability liaison officer of the day hadn’t done it for me as he had promised.

 I recently was appointed to the National Vocational Education and Training Equity Council advising the Deputy Prime Minister. I attended a forum in Tasmania that looked at skills training for Tasmanian equity groups. They were talking about the lack of funding to support people with additional needs. They were discussing how hard it was to find interpreters to meet the needs of Deaf students. Although this sounds bad one needs to remember that not that long ago the concept of paying for interpreters did not exist. It is indeed a huge shift to move from not even contemplating paying for interpreters and from using buddies to bemoaning the fact that there are not enough interpreters available. That is the new challenge, not funding interpreters but investing in the training of interpreters to meet the demand. To me, having come from an age where there was no chance of getting funding for interpreters, this is a positive thing. I mean, blimey; we now have interpreting through the internet as well. The change has been huge. Interpreting is now a multi-million dollar business.

We also have captioning. A few years ago the University of Melbourne introduced Live Remote Captioning for hearing impaired and Deaf students. Live Remote Captioning utilises the internet and phone to provide live captioning for students to access lectures. For those deaf people who prefer information in English this has been a godsend. The provision ofcaptioning and interpreting for students at university or TAFE is a far cry from the days when Deaf and hearing impaired students had to follow their appointed buddy around and look over the buddies shoulder as the buddy frantically took notes just to be able to follow lectures. Indeed my wife, in her final years of school, relied on her mother and sisters to take notes for her. This sort of thing would not even be considered today. The few companies that offer Live Remote Captioning are reaping ahealthy profit as well. The Deaf are good business.

I am part of the committee that is selecting the city to host the 2012 Australian Deaf Games n Victoria. In years gone by the Deaf community set up committees and organised the Games in the appointed capital city. Usually a few dedicated souls were responsible for organising things and they always did a marvellous job.Source: Bagshaw,Whole of life Approach)  The “NEEDY” are not welfare cases they are BIG BUSINESS. They create employment, demand, and MONEY. This is a cold hard fact. WE HAVE ECONOMIC POWER! How many reading this rely on us for their job?

In recent years the Australian Deaf Games have struggled. Costs have spiralled. Insurance liability, economic down-turns or simply the lack of committed volunteers are just some of the reasons that it has been difficult to sustain the Games. Indeed there were many who claimed the Games were not sustainable.

The Australian Deaf Games have now become a big business. Cities in Victoria have been asked to tender for the right to host the Games. Economic arguments have been developed as to how the Games will financially benefit the cities that bid to host the games. Cities throughout Victoria have put up their hands to host the games. Some have offered cash incentives of tens and thousands of dollars to hold the Games in their city. Apart from cash they have offered in-kind support such as transport or the free use of venues. No longer are the Deaf charity cases – they are BIG BUSINESS, something to be invested in. AND all of this has been driven by Deaf people! We don’t want charity nor do we expect it. We create opportunities, employment and money. We are BIG BUSINESS!!

The CEOs that send out the pitying fundraising drivel that lands painfully in our letter boxes need to take note. We have a lot to thank of people like The Rebuttal’s Dean Barton-Smith and the other Deaf people who secured the multi-million dollar funding for the Melbourne 2005 Deaflympics. They showed us the way and have not got anywhere near the praise that they deserved.

The people that lobbied to secure funding for the M2005 Deaflympics produced research that showed that the Games were likely to create $28 million in turnover for the Victorian economy. The Victorian Government provided $4 million in funding which was matched by the Federal Government. The economic benefits for Victoria were, in all liklihood, in excess of the predicted $28 million.

The Victorian Deaf community of the time played an enormous role in securing the M2005 Deaflympics for Australia and Victoria. Indeed they played an even larger role in securing the millions in funding to host the games. How much of the $28 million was returned to them for their efforts? A paltry $200 000. A puny return indeed. Deaf Sports Australia and to a lesser degree Deaf Sport Recreation Victoria, of which I am President, need to take some responsibility for this. Our leaders were asleep at the wheel. We must learn from this costly mistake and in the future ensure we get a fair return for the benefits that the wider community reap from our activities.

 Aside from the Deaf it has been suggested that by investing properly in people with a disability, by making them active participants in work, study and play that the economy would reap $46 billion. So yes we have come a long way and the new buzz word in meeting our needs is INVESTMENT. You don’t help and support people such as the Deaf you invest in them. By investing in the “NEEDY” such as us, lots of people benefit. It’s no longer heart warming to provide access through things such as captioning, interpreting or hosting things like the Australian Deaf Games – It is pure and simple – BIG BUSINESS!. Deaf organisations that continue to push the WELFARE and SOB STORY basket should take note. Deaf and hearing impaired people have come of age we are ready to take control. WE demand RESPECT!

4 thoughts on “The Age of Big Business

  1. Gary;

    Is this another rant, accusing Deaf organisation managers and CEO’s of earning “six figures” and them blaming them for not representing the Deaf Community’s needs correctly?

    Are you saying that as soon as a Deafie becomes a staff member at one of these organisations they are suddenly not included and they contribute to these “six figure salary” heads pushing a sob story?

    It seems like it, and I find this post very hypocritical and i’m pretty upset reading it.

    It’s not Deaf organisations who are at fault – it’s our stupid government who are cutting down the funding to us. In fact I read a transcript from a senate hearing late last year where one of the deaf orgs said that the state deaf societies are losing over half a million dollars a year because the government is refusing to pay them for some interpreting assignments!

    So gary, i’m interested.

    1. Qualify, with proof, that these CEOs and Managers are on 6-figure salaries, because i HIGHLY doubt it.
    2. You could use this blog to better effect. Stop blaming the organisations that are trying desperately to keep head above water and provide servies. HELP them represent you to government instead of being so critical and flagrantly lying by calling them fat cats.

    I challenge you to produce evidence of my 1st point.



    • Anton

      I havebeen in a fortunate situation as once being in receipt of a letter that was sent to one of these so called managers. This letter was to a fund raising manager and it had been accidently attached to the organisations newsletter … the fund raising manager was indeed offered a six figure salary and the letter attached to the newsletter by mistake confirmed his appointment. The manager was later to lead a fund raising campaign that lost half of seven figures.

      I profess I was on the board of the organisation at the time and approved the fundraising campaign, it was not one of my more inspired decisions if you like.

      Now Anton you well know that I am unable to produce here official information or evidence of workers salaries suffice to say that there are managers anc CEOs within our Deaf sector organisations on six figure salaries. I could also bring forward evidence to you of travel expenses for certain people that could fund several in home Auslan programs for children and families .. It happens … however if I were to bring forward this information I would most likely lose my house.

      My issue is that workers on the ground that do the real work of these organisations are paid a pittance … there are some still earning under 40 k a year .. barely above poverty,. it is very easy to blame goverments for the problems … the reality is that bad management, indeed too much management, swallows up most of the dollar.

    • Anton .. its also worth noting that nowhere in this article is there any mention of salaries ,, at least own up to your own bias or comment at the correct article. Suffice to say there are six figure salaries out there in the deaf sector.

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